Subject: AFP: Protesting ex-militia rampage in West Timor on vote anniversary

Agence France-Presse (AFP) 30 Aug 2000

Protesting ex-militia rampage in West Timor on vote anniversary

JAKARTA, Aug 30 (AFP) - Thousands of ex-East Timorese militiamen ran amok in West Timor Wednesday, smashing cars and beating up journalists, a UN official and reports said.

The angry protest came as thousands, east of the border, peacefully celebrated the first anniversary of their vote for independence and remembered the more than 1,000 who died in the violence after.

In the West Timor capital of Kupang, the militias protested briefly in front of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office before turning to the governor's office, breaking windows and running after staff members, UNHCR spokesman Jake Morland said.

"Some of them tried to get into our office but they were moved on by their leader, Eurico Guterres, to the governor's office, where they smashed a few windows and chased a few frightened civil servants around," Morland told AFP by phone from Kupang.

Guterres led the feared Aitarak, or "Thorn", militia group during the lead-up to last year's UN supervised ballot on independence in East Timor.

The Aitarak joined the orgy of Indonesian-military-backed destruction, arson and murder there after the vote, before fleeing to West Timor in the face of the arrival UN-authorized troops.

The state Antara news agency reported that the demonstrators beat up three journalists and a local legislator, destroyed the facade and rear gates of the provincial legislative building and smashed up three cars.

The attack took place as the MPs were meeting inside the building, Antara reported.

It said Guterres blamed Wednesday's violence on former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie.

"We are not responsible for the attack on the legislative building. The blame must be put on former president B.J. Habibie, who offered an independence option which led us to take refuge for one year now," he was quoted as saying by the news agency.

Antara said the demonstrators later burned a picture of Habibie in front of East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet Tallo, and the local police chief.

Morland said the militias came "from all over West Timor and formed one convoy."

He said they were only at the UNHCR office for around 10 minutes.

He said more disturbances were anticipated over the next few days, pointing to the September 4 anniversary of the ballot results, which were an overwhelming 78.5 percent in favour of splitting from Indonesia.

"We are wary that there may be worse to come in coming days," he said.

"I don't think we've seen the end of it yet." Three UNHC workers were badly beaten up earlier this month when they tried to distribute non-food aid to East Timorese refugees in a camp midway between Kupang and the border with East Timor.

Diplomats believe the militia, many of whom live in the camps, are trying to prevent the return home of the last 100,000 refugees for fear they will lose their operating bases in West Timor.

The Indonesian government is under pressure from the United Nations to dismantle the camps along the border, partly to prevent an escalating number of cross-border raids by armed members of the former militia.

bc/kw/cas AFP

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